What is it about?

We evaluated the effects of opiate consumption on semen quality, sperm function, seminal plasma antioxidant capacity, and sperm DNA integrity.

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Why is it important?

Addiction to mind altering and recreational drugs is increasingly becoming a major worldwide medical and social problem that is prevalent in rich and poor countries similarly. A considerable number of male factor infertility is categorized as “idiopathic” due to unknown etiology. In clinical practice, we regularly encounter men with poor semen quality, who are taking opiate and/or recreational substances. Endogenous opioid peptides are present in various tissues of the male reproductive tract, suggesting that they may be involved in the reproductive function. Several studies have demonstrated the deleterious effects of opiate compounds on sperm cell motility and morphology. It has been demonstrated that opiate abuse may result in hypogonadism, primarily by decreasing release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).


Substance abuse is a growing social and medical problem both in developed and developing countries. The National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) conducted in United States indicated that illicit drug use is prevalent among men of reproductive age. Among men in the age groupings of 26–34, 35–49, and 50 years and older, use of any illicit drug in 2008 was 24.6%, 14.5%, and 7.8%, respectively. The illicit drugs which have been reported to adversely affect male fertility are marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine, opioid narcotics, and anabolic-androgenic steroids. When assessing infertility, it is important to ask about drug use. In clinical practice we frequently encounter men with oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (OAT) who are opiate consumers, and cessation of these substances often results in improved semen quality. The present study supports the concept that opioids may impair male fertility capacity at multiple sites. A variety of demographic characteristics (age, BMI, occupational status, educational level, and smoking status) and clinical covariates (serum testosterone, LH, and PRL) are known to be correlated with fertility status.

Dr Mohammad Reza Safarinejad
University of Medical Sceices

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The effects of opiate consumption on serum reproductive hormone levels, sperm parameters, seminal plasma antioxidant capacity and sperm DNA integrity, Reproductive Toxicology, April 2013, Elsevier,
DOI: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2012.11.010.
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